How the Medium Partner Program Helped Me Get Real About My Writing — Again

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This post probably isn’t going to turn out the way you think.

But perhaps for some of you it will ring true. And offer you some encouragement from a kindred “compulsive.”

I “locked” a story earlier this week almost out of a sense of duty. And it went about as well as I expected. I think I got one “clap.”

Which is understandable. You see, while I have lots of followers, I have no newsletter. No “list.” No Web site of my own. No Medium publication dedicated to my writing or any subject.

I’ve let my HuffPo writing lapse for longer than I care to remember because I enjoy writing here far, far more. And not just because it’s just plain easier to post here.

I love Medium for dozens of personal and therefore somewhat indescribable reasons, not the least of which would be…well, you. The folks who stop by to see what I’m up to just because they like what I say sometimes.

I feel welcome here. Appreciated here. And also, as if I’m part of something very important here.

And I really like the idea that I’m not really being nudged to amass a huge “following.” Unless I want to. Because as much as I love you, there’s another reason I write, too.

Because I just can’t help myself.

I left journalism, real journalism, ages ago, to escape the pressure of writing on demand and chasing those bylines. It wasn’t what I wanted to do in the first place. But I was so gob smacked and flattered when the Sun Times beckoned that I couldn’t say “No.”

I was young enough to believe that “reporting” was “writing.” There is a huge difference. And I chafed under the strain of trying to tame my obsession. I’m not alone.

Lots of pretty damned famous writers made the same mistake. And left journalism feeling like there was something “wrong” with them — I sure did.

Now, I had more reasons to leave journalism than just the confusion it caused. But that was, in the end, the most important of them. It didn’t feel right. It made my soul hurt.

So lo these many years later, when I received my email invite to write for the Partners Program, I was torn. I love the idea. It’s a grand experiment.

But I knew I probably would never actually do anything for it. And I felt ungrateful. I had this remarkable outlet for my ramblings, so I felt I should do whatever I was asked.

Uh, oh. Deja vu. Cue the “debate.”

Internal critic: “Why DO you still write all the time even if there’s no guarantee anyone will ever pay for or read it, you crazy girl?”

Moi: “Uh…I dunno…”

I started writing as a toddler. I’m not joking. I would scribble on any scrap of paper I could find — sometimes the back of envelopes my parents received in the mail — and babble little “stories” to myself in a gibberish only I understood.

My parents passed on a sample of it for me to keep after they passed away. It makes me smile whenever I stumble upon it, going through all the crazy things they held onto.

So I write kinda because I have to. I’ve written novels just for myself. Really. I put one up on Wattpad just because I wanted to see what having an audience would be like. It did ‘way better than I expected, with the rather young crowd there, and wound up being featured for…well, years, actually. Quite an honor.

But what I loved about it most was just that having to put something up every week at least kept me going through to the end for the first time. I didn’t always read the comments or heed any of the advice I received. I just sort of enjoyed the “discipline.” It helped me finish, and made me feel more “responsible.”

It also taught me the same thing that the Partners Program has. I don’t mind being “responsible.” It’s good to be challenged from time to time.

But I write for the love of it. And the minute I try to do it for any other reason…it sucks all the joy out. I can feel it, and the reader, I fear, can, too.

I absolutely confounded one of the more revered “script gurus” in the film business, the late, great Blake Snyder, by proving that his “process” doesn’t work for everybody. I adored Blake, and he had great hopes for me. But the minute I reeled in my muse trying to make it “fit” the “beat sheet” system…it died.

“This is supposed to work,” he sighed once, as we went over a scene for the umpteenth time by phone.

Of course, he didn’t need me to tell him it how well it actually did work. For thousands or maybe even millions of people, many of them industry insiders who banked on his Save the Cat system. What vexed him was that there were a few people like me for whom it definitely didn’t. For whom plotting out every word was like strait-jacketing our brains.

His second Save the Cat book addressed people like me. I was, you could say, one of the lab mice from which the “new and improved” approach was gleaned. But he remained, until his very untimely passing, confounded by the way my mind worked.

I’m one of those weird creatures ruled by the voices in her head. I dream things and wake up and run to get them written. And now and then I send them off like messages in bottles, not quite sure where they’ll go.

At this stage of the game, one of the big perks is finding out that I’ve touched someone’s soul in some way. Or even made somebody pretty mad — that’s cool, too. To rile someone up a bit, so that they take a stand, even if it’s totally the opposite to mine.

But mostly, I write because I have to. I write to get the voices to shut up for a while. And then I write hoping they’ll come back. And they always do.

I have characters in my head and in scripts and novels and short stories nobody will ever read. I love them. They’re like old friends. One day maybe I’ll share them. Maybe not.

Will I ever lock a post again? Well, yeah. I already have an idea.

You see, a remarkable friend of mine, a wonderful Native American woman who ran for — and won — a seat in the Arizona state legislature once and has decided to run again.

She ran the first time because she was incensed by some bills that would have infringed on women’s rights in truly horrific ways. One would’ve made buying any kind of birth control damned near impossible. And they kept floating even more misogynistic ones every few weeks. Some sponsored by women, mind you.

She was livid about this, my friend. And decided to find out how to run for office. And then she ran for office. And won, goddamn it! I mean, wow, right?

It’ll be tougher this time. And I’d like to go along for the ride and as a member of her team, too. I believe in her. We need her. So I want to help.

She’s said “Yes.” And if it all comes together, that’s a series I could write for the PP.

But…I’m not sure yet. Because then all the people who normally read me wouldn’t be able to. And that would suck.

Oh, I love it when someone finds me and offers me an “assignment” from time to time. Or just buys something they’ve already read. That’s really sweet.

But PP reminded me that I don’t write for that anymore.

I just have to keep doing it. That’s the main thing. Write or die.

Holla if you hear me.

But damn, I am grateful to have been asked to “Partner Up,” you guys. And I’ll try again soon.

Maybe.

Image credit: https://coffeeandcrazy.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-trouble-with-being-writer.html

Award-winning former features reporter for the Chicago Sun Times and Arizona Daily Star, HuffPo contributor and author.

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